Shortly before sundown on Monday, July 26, Ricco Bertoletti, a Homewood resident and the owner of Ricco's Repair Service in Lynwood, gave a surprise gift to 58-year-old John Henry, a Homewood landscaper and a custodian at District 153.
It was a custom, one of a kind, 10-horsepower lawnmower with flames painted on it.
“Words cannot express. […] You got me crying, man,” Henry said after receiving the gift. He then gave Bertoletti a hug and said, “I can’t thank you enough, man. I can’t thank you enough.”
Bertoletti said the custom lawnmower was a way of saying “thank you” for everything Henry has done for Homewood. He said he lives on the same block as Henry and there are senior citizens there whose lawns Henry cuts without charging them.
Also, when new people move into the neighborhood, he said Henry cuts their lawn for free, too.
“He’s not a very rich person and he needed a machine to cut down these yards that were out of control, and he couldn’t afford that lawnmower. You fall into a range where they start getting into $8,000 to $10,000 for commercial machines,” said Bertoletti. “So, we decided, ‘Hey, let’s do something for this guy that keeps doing all these things in the community for everybody else.’ Maybe it’s time for him to get treated.”
The push lawnmower took about a year to build and customize, and it was a four-man job. The work included installing brackets, stripping the lawnmower down to bare metal, testing for safety and rebuilding the machine. Homewood resident Armond Salim from Armond Metal Work helped install the armor and the 10-horsepower engine. Salim and Bertoletti said they did this by removing the engine from a riding lawnmower and mounting it to the push lawnmower. According to Lawn Mower Lane, push lawnmowers typically only have 2.5 to 4.0 horsepower engines, so this lawnmower is significantly more powerful.
“This thing will cut grass four feet high, nothing stops it,” said Bertoletti.
The custom lawnmower can be started automatically from a keychain. The cable bar lights up with a red LED light. These features were installed by Reggie D. from the automotive store Bass Headz Kustomz. The lawnmower has painted, air brushed flames as well. This paint job was done by Gary Collins from the full-service sign company Absolute Advertisement.
“It’s cooler than anything you can buy,” said Salim.
The surprise gift was given to Henry in an open garage at Ricco Repair Service in Lynwood. To make it a surprise, Henry was told that Bertoletti had an old, vintage lawnmower he wanted to show him. The three men who helped build the lawnmower waited for Henry with Bertoletti.
“You’re up to something, aren’t you?” Henry said to Bertoletti when he arrived. “That’s my neighbor, always up to something,” he proclaimed with a grin.
When Henry was given the gift, his reaction was one of joy.
“This is unreal. I was this close to calling it quits,” said Henry. “But this here,” he said, pointing at the lawnmower. “I’ma stay at it.”